Stand-in fire crews were plagued by some bizarre false alarm calls during the 24-hour firefighters’ strike.
While the public heeded safety warnings and there were no serious blazes, West Yorkshire Fire Service lifted the lid on how false alarms can prove a drain on resources.
During the strike the county had 25 fire engines available from its usual fleet of 53. They were manned by ‘community response operatives’ under the supervision of a senior officer.
On Tuesday fire alarms were triggered in strange circumstances, taking crews away from potentially life-threatening incidents.
Cooking fumes set off an alarm at Shelley College; steam from a shower caused an alert at a sheltered housing complex in Doctor Lane, Mirfield; a burst radiator was blamed for a call to historic Oakwell Hall in Birstall; paint fumes set off an alarm at a nursing home in Otley; and exhaust fumes in a garage sent fire crews to a house in Boston Spa, near Wetherby.
Some 29 of the 50 calls received during the strike were from automatic fire alarms, many of them false alarms.
Assistant chief fire officer Dave Walton urged people to ensure alarm systems were regularly maintained and added: “The string of automatic fire alarms we have attended shows just how our resources can easily get tied up by false fire signals which are, in most cases, preventable.
“We urge commercial premises to do their bit to help keep West Yorkshire safe and ensure their automated systems are in good working order and are not likely to be triggered by cooking or paint fumes or even steam from a shower.”
In April, West Yorkshire Fire Service introduced a £350 fine for any business which had more than three false alarm calls in a 12-month period.
There are 3,600 false alarm calls a year in the county, though that figure has been reduced by 42% in the last three years.
While there were no major incidents during the strike, stand-in crews had to cut a 32-year-old woman driver free from her car in Westbury Street, Elland, at 7.45pm on Tuesday.
Police said it was believed the car hit two parked vehicles. The woman was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary with “serious but not life-threatening” injuries.
Later a man needed first aid at a works compound in Whitehall Road, Cleckheaton, when his roadsweeper caught fire. The man suffered slight injuries as he tried to tackle the blaze himself. Paramedics also attended.
The forecast high winds failed to give any serious problems.